Friday, 7 October 2011

The blip - when sublimity is lacking...

The recent (very) late summer-like weather inspired a couple of ritualistic purges.  There's nothing like sunlight streaming in through the windows to turn me into a spring cleaning, duster brandishing whirling dervish. I've cleared out some of the children's old clothes, some old boxes of papers and turned to my blog and to the folder of posts that I have written but never published. The italicised text below is one of them and on reflection I have decided that I do want to share it with you. It might ring true with others - I would wager that there aren't many expats out there who don't recognise 'the blip'. So here goes...this was written two weeks after we arrived in Copenhagen, in February 2011, with its cold days and long nights:
"Before we moved to Denmark, I wrote a letter to my pre-school son. I was very conscious that although we were talking about the move to Copenhagen and preparing for it in very practical ways (visiting the city to find accomodation etc), he probably didn't (and couldn't) fully understand what was happening. My fear was that the move would be too much for him. In writing the post, I also articulated some of my own fears and apprehensions.
Ending my letter, I sought to reassure him by saying that one day we would look back upon the time it would take us to settle into our new life as a mere 'blip'. In the bigger picture I know that this settling in phase has to happen and it will end. But here we are, in the 'blip'...
I have travelled and lived abroad before and being of a mixed cultural background, I am not naive to the challenges of being in a foreign land. Doing it with little children is a different story and this blip is proving to be a long haul - like childbirth and marathon running, it takes stamina.
It is at the same time both exhilarating and exhausting to be plunged into a new environment. These days, I find myself tired by the sheer hard work it takes to do the simplest things: Supermarket shopping requires a new level of concentration. Things are laid out differently, labelled in a foreign language and with two children and strange groceries vying for my attention, buying food has become a Herculean task. Trying to make meals that taste vaguely recognisable so that meal times do not descend into barely disguised rounds of bribery and negotiation - its enough to make me weep sometimes.
My son is being brave, I know he is. He misses his friends terribly - for a while the first thing he would ask when he woke up in the morning would be, 'am I going to make any friends?'. Of course, I reassure him and I am doing my best to get together with the other expat mums and to arrange trips to the playgrounds for him to look forward to. Deep down, I know that his fear is mine too. Whereas he used to be happy to walk everywhere, he now complains and whines as he has never done before. It is colder and I guess he, like me, is tired by the novelty of everything and he misses the familiarity that we all took for granted.
Only now am I learning what this 'blip' is all about; its a time of transition and it is unrelenting. There is no rest from the challenge. Now, I've started to talk about this time of 'change' with my son. We talk about food being 'different from England but its still yummy!'. I'm finding the patience not to expect too much too soon. And I remind myself that this too will pass."

And it did, it does.... Day by day and month by month things are falling into place. I no longer feel like we are living 'abroad' - this is our home now. Although things are different to before, I am learning to adjust my expectations to better suit my environment. Friendly faces and warm smiles abound and my son is settling into a new school and embracing the daily adventures inside and outside the classroom.
And looking back and reading that old post, I can't help but think it was only two weeks into the move - such early days! For anybody else out there and in the 'blip', have courage - it does get easier.

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